Getting to the Point

Salish songs and drumming by medicine woman Della Rice Sylvester punctuated soothing sounds of waves and wind at Sansum Point Sunday.

Sylvester met a dozen paddlers led by Wilderness Kayaking to the stunning point targeted by The Land Conservancy for purchase as parkland.

She explained how the spirit of her people exists at the 128-acre site where they’ve gathered medicinal bark and plants during generations.

“It’s in the ocean, the water, the trees and the rocks,” Sylvester smiled from under a cedar hat.

TLC is passing its hat to the community in efforts to buy the point from American owners for $1.85 million by Aug. 31.

About $497,000 is left to raise by that deadline, unless the date’s moved back, TLC staff explained Monday.

But it would be money well spent for preserving a priceless piece of Cowichan’s natural heritage, indicated Duncan paddler Jan Carnahan.

“It’s beautiful here,” she said under the wink of shear bluffs soaring above the point doted with fir, arbutus, oak and maple.

“We have to save Sansum Point so it’ll stay like this forever.”

Carnahan toasted the TLC and Cowichan Land Trust’s paddling-picnic fundraiser — that netted about $2,000 — plus Godfrey-Brownell’s weekend wine-dinner event that uncorked some $2,450 in Sansum sheckles.

“Most people want to visit some place beautiful, and for it to stay natural, not with houses built on everything.

“You can’t just drive in here — you have to make an effort.”

It took the Wilderness crew about two hours to reach the point after launching from Maple Bay Beach.

The flotilla reached the bay’s Paddy Mile Stone, then cruised past Octopus Point where Curly Newman’s old boathouse and family home have been levelled.

Rounding Octopus, paddlers pointed their bows into a wake constantly churned by numerous powerboats plying the Narrows.

Sticking to kelp-strewn back eddies, the kayakers saw nothing of a sea monster of Coast Salish legend told years ago to the Leader by late local carver Simon Charlie.

Still, kingfishers and blue herons were spotted, along with a family of seals too lazy to leave their sunning rocks near Octopus.

A small gravel beach awaited at Sansum where the Wilderness fleet made landfall.

“It’s the perfect little place to pull in, eh?” said paddler Roger Partridge.

He supported an idea by the TLC to work with Natives, the Legion and the feds to erect a stone cairn at Sansum to mark the park, and salute 11 Canadian airmen who died off Sansum during a wartime training exercise.

Then Sylvester arrived for lunch via skiff, singing a welcome song to the paddlers’ delight.

She spoke of the point’s place in Salish lore as the rapt paddlers listened in a circle on the point.

“We have to save this place because it’s pristine,” said Evelin Strougal.

“We need pristine places to recharge our batteries.”

That idea echoed Sylvester’s spiritual philosophy about humanity’s connection to nature.

“We’re all of one mind,” she said.

Tax-deductible donations for saving Sansum Point can be made by calling 1-877-485-2422 or visiting

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